Fritz Ribary steps down from Snoqualmie chamber, commissioner seat, to become hospital communications manager

After 15 months as executive director of the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce, Fritz Ribary is departing for a paid position with the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital.

Also giving up his hospital commissioner's position, Ribary will become the hospital's Manager of Marketing and Communications, reporting to Administrator Rodger McCollum.

A chamber board member and longtime volunteer, Ribary stepped into the executive position following the two-month directorship of Minna Rudd, who in turn replaced Karen Granger, director from 2007 to 2009.

"We're going to have a difficult time replacing an icon," Chamber Board President Gregory Malcolm told the Record. "Fritz served the chamber so well... We wish him well."

Ribary announced his departure, effective May 1, in a letter sent to members on April 20, "with a great deal of emotion and equal amount of pride in what we have accomplished."

However, his new job, managing the hospital's various media and community outreach arms, which starts Monday, May 2, is something he's wanted to see happen for 30 years.

Ribary will represent the hospital district very well, McCollum told the Record by e-mail. He will be "front and center," managing the people responsible for marketing, volunteer coordination, the hospital foundation, social media and website development and design.

McCollum said he surprised Ribary with the job offer, which came together about a month ago.

"What better person than Fritz?" McCollum said. "What more passionate person about health care?... All of it makes sense in terms of who Fritz is. It utilizes his talents and activities in a way that will benefit the community."

Twice serving as commissioner, Ribary, a former mayor and city council member, was already an ambassador for the hospital.

"Fritz has a high level of integrity and credibility," McCollum said. "He knows a lot of people and is very community oriented. All of that led us to the point where he was the best qualified."

Ribary himself gave three reasons for making the change.

"Part of it was my 30-year involvement with the hospital," he said. "Second was the opportunity to actually (represent) the hospital. Three, the direct involvement with building a new hospital," planned for Snoqualmie Ridge.

The hospital district will appoint a new commissioner at a Thursday, May 12, meeting from a short list of candidates nominated by the board. While there is a front runner, McCollum said no one has been selected or accepted at this time.

The appointee would then run for office in November.

Replacing Ribary

Malcolm said the chamber board is not immediately hiring a replacement. Rather, the chamber is using Ribary's departure as a way to consider how the office can best use resources and employees.

"We'd like to take a look at everything we're trying to do," Malcolm said. "We're in a unique position to look at what we want the executive director position to be."

Ribary said he will still consult with the chamber during the transition to new leadership.

He said the executive directorship was a good fit.

"Practically from day one, it was a transition in progress," as the chamber worked to modernize its website and procedures. Moving forward, he advises more specialization among staff.

"If any given person wears too many hats, it dilutes effectiveness," he said. "As I look at tourism and a visitor's center, those two things are becoming more important."

Ribary leaves as the chamber is going through a number of changes.

"We're really doing some dynamic things," Malcolm said.

The chamber is hiring a third employee—an office assistant—is upgrading and updating its website, and is moving to a new location, the Snoqualmie-owned former bank building and planning department at Falls Avenue and River Street. That new office, opening May 27, will double as a Snoqualmie visitor's center.

The organization is going through its new membership drive, and is on track to add 30 businesses by May 18.

Malcolm said that the economic development directors of North Bend and Snoqualmie now meet with the board. The organization, Malcolm said, is pushing for a wider role in economic leadership, locally and regionally.

"The members realize the need for a strong chamber," Malcolm said. "We're really championing the idea of adding value."

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